Implanting new leadership
U.S. Army Dental Activity welcomes new commander at Fort Meade
Story and photo by Brandon Bieltz
After serving as commander since 2010, Col. David B. Hembree relinquished command to Col. James Howell III during a ceremony July 18. Hembree is retiring after 22 years of service, including a deployment to Honduras as part of the medical element of Joint Task Force-Bravo.
"I want to say thank you to the United States Army," he said. "It has given me so much more than I could have imagined."
During Hembree's tenure at DENTAC, the unit has experienced several changes including construction projects and setting up operations at Fort Myer and Fort Belvoir -- both in Virginia -- due to the Base Realignment and Closure and closing of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Based at Fort Meade, DENTAC provides dental care to nearly 24,000 service members at nine clinics at Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Detrick, Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer and Carlisle Barrack, Pa.
"Fort Meade DENTAC presents some of the greatest challenges faced by any DENTAC commander," said presiding officer Col. Robert J. Miller, commander of the Northern Regional Dental Command. "The DENTAC, over the past two years, has inherited new facilities, new missions during the BRAC process and is now what I consider geographically dispersed more than any DENTAC in the [Contiguous United States]."
Miller said that under Hembree's command, the organization maintained a customer satisfaction level of more than 94 percent, while maintaining a dental wellness of 44 percent. The U.S. Army Dental Command average is 28 percent.
"I've done my best to leave you a top-notch organization, but I know there's always room for improvement," Hembree said to Howell during the ceremony. "I have no doubt you'll make it better."
During his remarks, Hembree thanked the Soldiers and civilian staff for the quality of dental service they provide to service members at the various clinics spanning three states.
Hembree, who jokingly referred to himself as "Extractor 6," is moving to Washington state with his wife, retired Lt. Col. Patty Hembree, and their two children, Grace, 10, and Samuel, 7.
"Colonel Hembree, you're simply a great leader. ... You will be missed," Miller said. "But, fortunately, the Army finds a way to find an outstanding leader to come take his place, here at Fort Meade, in Colonel James Howell."
Howell, a native of Silver Spring, arrived at Fort Meade after briefly serving as commander of the Landstuhl Dental Activity in Germany.
After earning a bachelor's degree in biology from St. Louis University in 1988 and a doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Maryland, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1992, Howell was assigned as a general dental officer with the Fort Bragg Dental Activity in North Carolina for four years.
Howell then served at battalion dental surgeon for the 302nd Forward Support Battalion at Camp Casey, Korea, until 1997. He later returned to Fort Bragg, where he started his residency training with the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program at the Womack Army Medical Center.
In 2000, Howell was sent to Germany where his assignments included chief of general dentistry with the 67th Combat Support Hospital, Wuerzburg; platoon leader with the 523rd Dental Company, Giebelstadt; and officer in charge of the Kitzgen Dental Clinic, Kitzgen.
In 2006, Howell deployed to Iraq with the 21st Combat Support Hospital, responsible for detainee care at Abu Ghraib and Camp Cooper.
Following his 14-month deployment, Howell returned to Germany where he served as officer in charge of the Baumholder Dental Clinic until May 2008, when he was appointed commander of the unit. He concurrently served as deputy commander of Landstuhl Dental Activity.
"I know you're the right leader for this DENTAC and I look forward to having you as part of our team," Miller said.
During his brief remarks, Howell expressed his leadership philosophy to the members of DENTAC, promising "not to just lead, but to listen and learn" and "work as a team and give 110 percent. ... I am humbled and honored to serve as your leader."
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